April 18, 2014
FILM REVIEWThursday, March 28, 2013
Unspired Buenos Aires-Beirut journey and back
by Pablo Suárez
For the Herald
Argentine filmmaker Hernán Belón’s documentary Buenos Aires - Beirut - Buenos Aires is the story of Grace, a young Argentine woman of Lebanese origin living in Buenos Aires, who travels to Lebanon to find out what happened to her great-grandfather, Mohammed, who abandoned the family he had in Argentina some fifty years ago. A box filled with letters written in Arabic — which no-one in the family can read — is the departure point for her travel back to Beirut in search for her roots.
First and foremost, Buenos Aires - Beirut Buenos - Aires is a film without an audience. It tells a personal story with no deeper resonance, there’s nothing else but the anecdote.
It’s like an uninspired, dull travelogue — there’s very little dramatic progression, and so it drags. There’s no creative use of the language of cinema and no effective, compelling use of conventional molds.
There’s an annoying voice over that attempts to be introspective and meditative — but turns out being over explanatory and redundant. And there’s some kind of a political edge too — very unoriginal and rudimentary.
The whole affair is dead boring, trust me. Why would average moviegoers want to see a film that does not relate to them at all beats me.
Why would they be interested in the details of a family they don’t know and will never get to know is yet another hard-to-answer question.
The reason why this raw material (the story of Grace, her great- grandfather, and her family at large) hasn’t been turned into a film beyond its peculiarities is easier to figure out: there’s no understanding of how to make a documentary that tells something to someone.
You know how dreadful it is when relatives start showing you postcards and photos when you didn’t even ask to see them in the first place? Well, it’s the same situation here — only that you are trapped in a movie theatre during 80 long, very long minutes.
Buenos Aires -Beirut - Buenos Aires is a film without an audience other than the one made of the people who shot it, their relatives, and, at best, their friends too — the close friends, I mean, I’m not sure about the rest.
Buenos Aires - Beirut -Buenos - Aires. Argentina, 2011. Written by: Grace Spinelli, Hernán Belón. Directed by: Hernán Belón. Cinematography: Lorena Fernández. Editing: Natalie Cristiani, Sebastián Carreras. Music: Juan Pablo Mendonca. With: Grace Spinelli. Independent distribution. NR. Running time: 83 minutes.